Teaching in a diverse Scotland: increasing and retaining minority ethnic teachers

This report aims to increase the number of teachers from under-represented groups at all levels in Scottish Schools.

4. Key Themes

(i) Closing the Awareness Gap

4.1 The Glasgow City Council Research Paper looking at Ethnic Diversity in the Teaching Profession found of the 490 respondents[17] who responded to their survey, 49% of all minority ethnic teacher respondents indicated that they felt that discrimination relating to their ethnic background was a barrier to gaining promotion. Only 1.1% of white teachers indicated ethnicity was a barrier. Yet the two quotes below from headteachers, demonstrate a clear lack of awareness of the issues some black and minority ethnic staff face.

'I have no reason to think that promotion is more difficult for teachers from a minority ethnic background.' Headteacher, Secondary

'I don't see that promotion is any more challenging for staff from minority ethnic backgrounds. There are fewer teachers from minority ethnic backgrounds however from my experience I think they are proportionally represented at each level of the profession.' Headteacher, Primary

4.2 The Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS) survey of minority ethnic teachers found that 43% of respondents felt they had been overlooked for promotion. Comments from our meeting with the Regional Equality Councils and trade unions also pointed to perceptions of discrimination on grounds relating to race.

4.3 The discussions with minority ethnic focus groups repeatedly raised issues of racism and discrimination in the workplace. The EIS survey exemplified the types of racism, including Islamophobia, most commonly experienced by minority ethnic teachers. These range from the use of racist or Islamophobic language, racist attitudes from colleagues, invisibility of racial diversity within curriculum content, curriculum content that perpetuated racial stereotypes, to racist attitudes and comments from parents and pupils (EIS, 2018). The EIS report provides examples of how racism is occurring in the workplace and we suggest that all school leaders read the section of open comments from survey respondents to raise awareness of how everyday racism is present within schools.

4.4 Despite the issues raised in both the EIS survey and our own fieldwork, workplace racism was rarely recognised or raised by local authorities. Some respondents indicated they have never managed a race focussed complaint as part of their role and therefore lack the knowledge or experience of recognising race related matters. This contrasts with the finding from the same research that twice as many BME teachers noted discrimination as a concern, with 66% concerned with discrimination from colleagues compared to 11% of white teachers.

4.5 Given that we know issues exist, it is surprising and disappointing to note that in some cases employer awareness of issues appears to be very low. We are aware that several organisations such as BEMIS, Advance HE, CRER and trade unions have developed race equality training courses. These may be of use to Education Scotland, ITE providers and local authorities in considering how best to build skills and understanding of equality issues across the whole workforce.

4.6 Respondents from surveys and discussion groups also observed positive aspects such as effective anti-racist policies, curriculum content which explicitly discusses and challenges racism and positive partnership developments such as 'Show Racism the Red Card' (NASUWT and ITE Providers). There was acknowledgement that some subject areas such as Modern Studies or Religious Education appeared to be more proactive in challenging stereotypes. However, these examples were not at all widespread and tended to depend on explicit support for diversity issues from specific staff such as headteachers, local authority leads or classroom teachers.

4.7 The Working Group is concerned that the depth of disparity of understanding and awareness of issues is acting as a major barrier to diversifying the teaching workforce. In our view, this disparity of understanding is present throughout the arc of a teacher's career from their experience of school as a pupil, applying to university teaching courses, student experience within programmes, seeking permanent employment and ultimately to applying for promotion. The impact of discrimination has both immediate and long-term implications. Being subjected to low level everyday racism in a school setting affects an individual's level of morale, confidence and self-esteem, even pupils from a non BME background offered racism as a reason for BME young people not choosing teaching as a profession, evidenced in the 2018 Glasgow City Council research paper.

4.8 Daily micro-invalidations or knowing you are the 'other' is largely invisible to the majority but acutely felt by those on the receiving end. The corrosiveness of this experience eventually impacts on how an individual presents themselves, which can become a contributory factor in either thinking about or achieving promotion. Without a heightened awareness of the effects of personal, cultural and institutional discrimination, a recruiting manager could perceive a period of illness or reduced performance as being a failing on the part of the applicant as opposed to their reaction to unfair treatment or confronting daily micro-invalidations. The impact of discrimination, conscious or unconscious, is therefore amplified and compounded.

4.9 In one focus group, the Working Group was asked to consider using Critical Race Theory (CRT)[18] as a framework to inform the work of the group. The Working Group did not discuss CRT in depth but accepts that it is a useful framework to adopt in the journey towards better representation and participation of minority ethnic people in a range of areas.

4.10 A focus group of EAL teachers noted that their ability to speak multiple languages should be greatly valued by schools as opposed to being seen as a cause for concern. A small number of surveyed teachers highlighted that it could lead to them being pigeonholed into the EAL service and similar roles, rather than being offered generic teaching roles as evidenced in the Glasgow City Council research paper.

It is recommended that:

  • The current review of Professional Standards for teachers by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) should ensure that race issues are explicitly referenced within the context of inclusion, equality and diversity.
  • By August 2019 the SBTE should commission a plan to raise awareness of how everyday racism, institutional racism or bias manifests itself within education settings.
  • By August 2019 Education Scotland should update all of their educational leadership programmes to include content that develops understanding of how everyday racism, institutional racism or bias impacts in the workplace and to be able to identify steps for addressing this.
  • Local authorities should ensure that the need to recruit and support a diverse workforce is understood by all relevant staff. By August 2019 COSLA should indicate what steps they have taken to ensure that responsibilities in this area are firmly embedded into recruitment processes.
  • Local authorities and schools should recognise multilingual teachers as valuable members of staff who are able and capable of enhancing the learning of a wide range of pupils, not just pupils for whom English is an Additional Language.

(ii) Attractiveness and Status of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) to studentsfrom minority ethnic backgrounds

4.11 Teaching in Scotland is an all graduate profession and there are currently eleven education institutions offering programmes of ITE. To become a primary teacher in Scotland, an individual must have a degree or equivalent which allows them to teach in primary schools. To become a secondary teacher in Scotland, an individual must have a degree or equivalent in the subject they intend to teach, along with a degree-level teaching qualification.

4.12 Regardless of background and ethnic group, a key reason for choosing teaching as a career for all students is the desire to make a positive impact on the lives of children and young people. A commonly expressed view by education stakeholders is that people from minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to consider teaching as a career than their white peers.

4.13 We do not understand the extent or currency of such a view or whether this is fully shared by all black and minority ethnic communities and individuals. This view was echoed by some Racial Equalities Council members who indicated that teaching was not viewed as an attractive career by families they had engaged with. One reason given was that teaching was not considered to be a profession with the same level of kudos as others, such as medicine and dentistry. However, while the Working Group accepts that teaching (or indeed other professions) may not be a profession of choice for some black and minority ethnic individuals, this should not be used as a reason for inaction by key education providers to both encourage black and minority ethnic people into teaching and to ensure the system is ready to accept a diverse workforce.

4.14 Minority ethnic teachers and young people who participated in the Glasgow research paper also identified that there is a lack of positive role models from minority ethnic backgrounds in teaching. A commonly held view was that teaching might be a more attractive career choice if there were more minority ethnic teachers working in schools.

4.15. What we do know is that more BME teachers were dissatisfied with their experience of initial teacher education than white teachers. (Glasgow City Council, 2018). While this point is derived from a single survey, this coupled with information from evidence sessions, would suggest ITE providers need to do far more to ensure BME student teacher experiences are addressed. The Working Group is therefore disappointed that the responses from university initial teacher education providers appear to lack pro-action in the area of race equality.

4.16 A range of other factors appear to discourage individuals from minority ethnic backgrounds to consider teaching as a career of choice. These include the lack of promotion prospects, poor experiences as students and probationers, experiences of discrimination, racial or other, from colleagues, parents and pupils, and perceived low levels of pay. Discrimination from pupils, parents and colleagues was considered a deterrent to a career in teaching for significant proportions of BME respondents while much smaller proportions of White Scottish/White Other respondents identified discrimination as a barrier to people from minority ethnic backgrounds entering the teaching profession, evidenced in the Glasgow Council research paper. A focus group of teachers with English as an Additional Language (EAL) noted that there were a number of reasons why the respondents had chosen a career in teaching. Many of these related to more generic issues such as childcare or coming from families where generations before them had been teachers.

4.17 Some minority ethnic pupils who were asked about career options in teaching indicated that they did not hold the appropriate level of English qualification required to join all ITE courses in Scotland. All but two of a group of pupils from the Glasgow City Council surveyed commented they were going to university to study subjects such as mathematics, science, computing or business where entry is not dependent on a qualification in English.

4.18 The requirement to hold a Higher English for entry into all teacher education programmes is worth further examination. Since 2013, Entry Requirements into secondary PGDE programmes also allow for entry with an English as a Second Language (ESOL) qualification while GTC Scotland have also introduced the ability for an ITE provider to accept a student who does not hold a Higher English, on entry on the basis that they have gained the qualification by the time they exit ITE. The Working Group would question whether a degree of flexibility in respect of this requirement should be considered so that access to teaching courses can be widened for the largest possible number of applicants, including, but not limited to BME students.

4.19 Some minority ethnic pupils surveyed (Glasgow City Council, 2018), had not considered teaching as a career and stated that they had higher aspirations than being a teacher. Their career choices were very much driven by family expectations. The working group found this to be a particularly stark finding that would appear to signal a need to engage with pupils and the wider community about the importance of teaching and its status as a developing profession.

4.20 Discussions with union representatives and Regional Equality Councils highlighted the importance of family support and having family members who have been teachers acting as role models. They recommended that work with minority ethnic parents and communities to encourage them to consider teaching as a profession of choice could have a significant impact for the future. The Working Group strongly welcomes the contribution the teaching unions and professional associations continue to make in supporting minority ethnic teachers and in highlighting the need to increase the diversity of the profession. Teachers' representative bodies should be seen as a key partners in the shared actions that will stem from this report as should organisations working closely with minority ethnic communities such as BEMIS, CRER, Regional Equality Councils, SAMEE and other more local agencies.

4.21 The Working Group is of the view that schools have a key role in encouraging minority ethnic pupils to identify teaching and supporting them in terms of direct application to undergraduate programmes; and that the Career Advisory Service also has an important role to play in terms of highlighting the benefits of teaching to all school pupils, not just those from minority ethnic backgrounds. In so doing, the Careers Advisory Service should ensure that advice provided avoids stereotyping pupils or making assumptions about the aspirations of black and minority ethnic pupils. For some the lack of visibility of 'race' in the Scottish curriculum was also raised as another potential barrier. It was suggested that there are not sufficient resources available to teachers which provide information about the positive contribution of minority ethnic people, including their history and inclusion as part of Scottish society.

'Minority ethnic teachers sometimes feel they are teaching a curriculum that is not reflective or their culture or experiences.' Focus Group with Unions and Regional Equality Councils

4.22 The importance of changing the perception of the profession is key if we are to attract a broader demographic group into teaching. If as a minority ethnic pupil you have faced challenging times at school, then considering teaching might not be a first career of choice. However, The Glasgow Council and the EIS survey evidence has showed that minority ethnic people who have entered the profession have done so because they want to change the situation and improve the experiences of minority ethnic pupils for the future. A challenging situation can be harnessed as a positive recruitment strategy and COSLA and ITE providers are asked to reflect on how they can appeal to minority ethnic pupils to highlight that as a teacher you can make a difference to the lives of future generations of children and young people.

It is recommended that:

  • Local authorities, ITE providers, Skills Development Scotland, the GTCS, Scottish Government and relevant third sector organisations who have experience in this area should take joint action to encourage young minority ethnic people to identify teaching as a profession of choice.
  • Education Scotland, through its work with the Curriculum Resource Group, should ensure that curricular materials available to teachers better reflect racial diversity and that quality anti-racist resources exist alongside appropriate staff development for teachers and clear guidance on how resources should be used.

(iii) Effectiveness of university admissions processes in attracting a diverse range of applicants

4.23 In Scotland, new teachers undertake their professional education at one of nine providers of ITE. Universities and their Schools of Education therefore play a vital role in attracting individuals into a career in teaching. The accessibility of ITE programmes for minority ethnic students and their early experiences of university programmes as places of study and schools as workplaces are pivotal to the overarching theme of this report.

4.24 In response to the Working Group's call for evidence, University Schools of Education were aware of the need to diversify the teaching profession though, disappointingly, not all recognised the need to be pro-active in the area of race. There was recognition of the need to consider contextualised admission[19] offers but these are largely related to issues of socio-economic status, gender and caring responsibilities. Some universities commented that all applicants to teaching are required to meet the same minimum entry requirements, undertake similar interviews and, once accepted onto courses, are then offered similar levels of support.

4.25 One university highlighted the need to be pro-active, such as establishing an ethos that resonated with minority ethnic students, as well as the need to view race equality as part of the wider equalities agenda. Other organisations and institutions who responded to the call for evidence indicated that while all protected characteristics were addressed, they were less certain that all the characteristics had equivalent attention and coverage. Those who acknowledged the need for increased activity focussed on the university admissions process suggested that there needed to be awareness-raising among academic staff of race equality matters and that more needed to be done to encourage individuals from under-represented communities to apply. Overall, the universities do not appear to be proactively engaging with the issue of underrepresentation of BME students in the teaching profession.

4.26 Given entry to teacher education courses is in effect the only route into a teaching career in Scotland, admissions procedures are critical to the creation of a workforce that more accurately reflects the country's population. The Working Group explored with university staff, teachers and representative organisations the extent to which current admissions processes are capturing a diverse range of applicants. Very little data was available to support this discussion, as universities do not collect/publish data on the diversity of applicants at an individual programme level. Developing a more granular understanding of the range of applicants applying for ITE programmes is an area where the Working Group would expect progress to be made.

4.27 Each university is responsible for designing its own admissions process, but must meet legislative requirements in relation to fair access. Admissions processes vary between institutions but there is an expectation, set by the GTCS, that prospective teaching students should be interviewed before being accepted onto a programme. During focus group discussions participants thought the interview process may act to disadvantage minority ethnic applicants or in some cases discourage them from applying. The question was raised whether an interview is needed for access to ITE programmes, and whether universities could be more creative and flexible in the application of their admission processes. Future work on gathering data about admissions should also aim to develop a better understanding of the impact of the interview process on BME applicants.

4.28 The focus group of English as an Additional Language (EAL) teachers who participated in the Glasgow Council research noted that in their view, the most significant reason for the low number of teachers from minority ethnic backgrounds relates to the difficulties in becoming a registered teacher in Scotland when training has been undertaken in another country, due to entry requirements or language skills.

4.29 There was also recognition of the need to work with university admissions teams to ensure applicants are not overlooked because they may not meet the standard entry requirements or obviously demonstrate attributes that will guarantee a place on a programme. This is particularly important when considering applicants for whom English is not their first language. This applies particularly to those who have recently arrived in Scotland. We are of the view that more can be done by University admission teams to consider flexibility and equivalencies to assist the diversification of cohorts while retaining quality.

4.30 Most focus groups also commented that more support for those with EAL is required during ITE. The Working Group is of the view that any new approach should mirror efforts to widen access to higher education and are not necessarily about providing direct support. With this in mind admissions procedures should value different experiences and skills held by applicants from a minority ethnic background alongside traditional academic criteria.

It is recommended that:

  • Universities providing ITE and the GTCS should examine national entry requirements, selection, admissions and interviewing practices to ensure that institutional barriers, conscious or unconscious bias does not deter applicants from being selected.
  • University admission systems for ITE to take steps to ensure the varied skills and experiences of minority ethnic applicants are appropriately valued and that equivalencies are recognised particularly for those with qualifications from overseas.
  • Universities providing teacher education should gather new data about application, interview and completion rates for minority ethnic students. This work should start in the 2019/20 academic year and to be shared with the Diversity in the Teaching Profession Working Group.

(iv) Student placement experiences and support for students

4.31 Student placements are a mandatory element of all ITE programmes and are crucial to providing students with experience of working in a school environment. All students should be fully supported and mentored throughout their placement and feel at ease as they learn about how to teach a class.

4.32 The Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators (SAMEE) are a charity supporting minority ethnic teachers by providing race, religion and culture training, while promoting diversity across the profession. SAMEE report that teachers from minority ethnic backgrounds are often faced with difficult challenges in the early part of their placement/career and are often not being asked to participate in team teaching activities because 'some' people can't understand them or have issues with the way they talk or what they wear. This is a clear example of everyday racial micro-aggression/invalidation.

4.33 As part of the Glasgow Council Research Paper students were asked to rate their experience of their initial teacher education programmes. Participants largely (65%) agreed that they were satisfied with the course (as detailed below). Respondents that identified as White Scottish/White Other were more likely to have been satisfied with their experience of teacher education than minority ethnic respondents or those with Other or undisclosed ethnicities.

4.34 While this point is derived from one survey, this coupled with information from evidence sessions suggests that ITE providers need to do more to ensure BME student teacher experiences are addressed. The Working Group is therefore disappointed that the responses from university initial teacher education providers appear to lack a sense of activity in the area of race equality. The Working Group therefore suggest that ITE providers and schools offering student placements need to better understand how race issues play out and impacts on student experience at all levels from admissions to placements to in programme experiences.

Satisfaction with Teacher Training by Ethnicity
"overall I was satisfied with my experience of teacher training"

Satisfaction with Teacher Training by Ethnicity

4.35 The Working Group heard from a range of groups involving minority ethnic teachers, students, unions and regional equality councils who raised negative experiences of student placement as a significant issue. Examples included schools not making allowances for Ramadan and other religious holidays. There was also concern that the mentoring of minority ethnic teachers was not always positive. There was a view that complaints could be dismissed, with minority ethnic probationers, newly qualified teachers and teachers feeling unable to take the issue further due to lack of support from peers or management.

It is recommended that:

  • Universities providing teacher education should use the Self-Evaluation Framework published in September 2018[20] to evidence the ways in which culturally-responsive pedagogies and anti-racist education are embedded in their curriculum content.
  • Starting in 2019, as part of their accreditation of ITE Programmes, GTCS should ensure that universities add specific guidance to programme and placement handbooks providing clear advice to students on the support they can access if they experience discrimination or harassment.
  • Local Authorities should prepare more detailed guidance to support probationer teachers and teacher mentors to understand the legal and statutory requirements with respect to race equality and diversity and their rights as employees should they face discrimination or harassment.

(v) Retaining students and teachers from minority backgrounds while supporting promotion at all levels

4.36 We know that there are very few teachers from minority ethnic backgrounds in promoted posts in Scotland's schools. A teacher from a minority ethnic background appears to be less likely than a white colleague to be promoted, with twice as many non BME teachers being encouraged to apply for promoted posts as suggested by the Glasgow Council research paper. The results of the 2017 Teacher Census are supported by one of the main findings from the EIS survey, which states that nearly half of their respondents had experience of being overlooked for promotions (43%) and 75% of BME teachers felt that promoted posts are difficult for BME teachers to obtain, compared to 10% of non BME teachers as reported in the Glasgow Council paper. Given the overall small numbers of minority ethnic teachers working in Scotland's schools, it is not easy to evidence the extent of this problem or why it occurs. However, focus group interviews suggest that issues in respect of racism (conscious and unconscious), nationality, language, clothing and religion do exist in Scottish schools and do play a role in respect of both retention and promotion.

"I think one of the major difficulties in retaining teachers from BME backgrounds would be the lack of acknowledgement of racism (on an institutional and an individual level) in the profession." (Union BME Member)

4.37 The discussions the working group has undertaken and the responses we have received point to the need for a multi-pronged approach starting with the closing of the awareness and understanding gap of non-minority ethnic teachers, leaders and policy makers and the lived experiences of minority ethnic people (pupils and teachers). The ethos and culture of each school needs to embrace racial diversity as a positive rather than as a bolt-on issue to be addressed. Leaders in the sector have a duty to learn about race equality and education themselves to ensure they are not perpetuating racism and racial barriers. There needs to be a review of the materials available to support the delivery of the curriculum to ensure better representation of diversity but also where and how 'race' issues feature, to include more positive content about the contributions of minority ethnic people across all subject areas but also to Scottish history and society. There is also a need to review the existing mechanism for how to report, discuss and address issues of racism in the workplace and to ensure follow on action is both informed and effective.

4.38 The Working Group is of the view that the key to improving promotional prospects for minority ethnic teachers is twofold. The first step is to improve the knowledge and understanding of school leaders and those on promotion panels about how race equality issues, conscious and unconscious, impact in the workplace. Such promotion panels should also be familiar with the possibilities of positive action measures as part of the Equality Act 2010[21]. The second step needed is to raise the confidence of minority ethnic staff and to provide mentoring to enable them to have a positive attitude to applying for promotion and be successful. While the Working Group's main focus is on the number of minority ethnic teachers working in Scotland's establishments, we would also have been interested in developing a better understanding of minority ethnic representation across the wider education sector including in universities, colleges, local and national Government. Research from the "Reviewing the aims and effectiveness of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in Great Britain" [22] found that of all institutions in Scotland's public sector landscape, further education has the highest percentage of BME staff.

4.39 This data is likely to be available and would encourage a more holistic examination of the issue. The Group also feels that, if possible, it would be useful for the annual Teacher Census to provide a more detailed breakdown of the already included ethnicity and ethnic group categories as opposed to focusing on general terms such as 'ethnic minority' and 'white other'. We do however understand that given the relatively low numbers from some ethnic groups, due to issues of confidentiality, it will often not be possible to publish this data.

It is recommended that:

  • Local authorities should recognise and support aspiring minority ethnic teachers and encourage them to apply for promotion both within schools and across the wider education service. As part of this local authorities should examine how racism, institutional racism, bias (conscious or unconscious), and lack of awareness act as blocks to the promotion of BME teachers. This should be done in partnership with BME teachers who can inform such an exercise.
  • A national mentoring network for minority ethnic staff should be established by March 2019. This network should be developed and led by the GTCS, working in partnership with BME teachers and relevant groups who have experience in this area. The mentoring process should include the ability to spend time in another school or local authority to shadow a promoted member of staff.


Email: Kelly Ireland

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